Soccer and family fuel a winner


Toland at practice

Photo by Daniel R. Burke


Women’s soccer star Kellianne Toland (C’01) wants you to know she has a great family. “My parents have only missed three games — home and away. They’ve driven to Yale, to Dartmouth, to Brown.”

When her friends need a hug — she lives with seven others who all know each other through soccer — they ask Toland if her parents are coming to campus.

“They’re surrogate parents,” said the youngest of three and a graduate of Nazareth Academy, a Catholic girls’ school in Northeast Philadelphia.

So it’s no surprise that Toland, a Philadelphia native and the baby of her family, came to Penn. It was close to home.

It was also home to a soccer coach she liked a lot. Patrick Baker, then coach of Penn women’s soccer, recruited her off of Pennsylvania’s First State Select Team.

He made a good choice. Toland was First Team All Ivy her freshman and junior years, led the Ivy League in points last year, and was selected by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America to the Mid-Atlantic Region Team.

Four years after her recruitment, Baker and his successor are gone, but Toland’s still playing soccer at Penn.

“She wants to win and does what it takes to win. She’s kind of the engine of the team,” said her newest coach, Darren Ambrose, who took over in June. “She’s the one who keeps everyone going. She also leads by example.”

Which is a good thing for a team that lost four of its starters at graduation in the spring, and has 12 rookies who need to catch up with the rest of the gang.

Ambrose is optimistic about the season following the team’s first-ever trip to the NCAA. “I still expect them to compete in the Ivies,” he said. “I expect a great record and to be considered for the NCAA tournament.”

Toland’s a little more circumspect. “Our team has gotten stronger with each game,” she said. At the time this story went to press, they had played only four games — two wins and two losses.

Losing is something Toland’s definitely against. “I’m not sure that I know why I fight so hard. I just hate losing, pretty much in anything,” she said.

She also likes to win on the social and academic sides. She belongs to Delta Delta Delta sorority and is a member of the Friars, a senior honor society. Psychology major Toland also was an Academic All-Ivy her junior year.

“That made my mom happy. She likes that it’s academics and soccer combined.”
Her parents live in Torresdale in the lower Northeast section of Philadelphia. “Where I live and where Penn is, is completely different,” Toland said. “Penn is in the city, like Center City. Now that I live at Penn, I know the city really well.”

Will she stay in Philadelphia? “I couldn’t go to California; I couldn’t go to Florida,” she said. They’re too far from home. But she’d consider Washington, D.C.

And more soccer. “It’s more fun than going for a run or going on the treadmill for exercise. I can’t imagine what my life will be without soccer. It will be a shock to my system.”

Originally published on September 28, 2000